Marcus Brew, managing director of UNTHA UK, offers some advice when handling this potentially difficult waste type…
Ever-changing legislation and an increasing awareness of the need to develop safe and environmentally responsible waste disposal methods, means the processing of any unwanted packaging falls under great scrutiny.
But when this packaging has housed hazardous substances such as chemicals, acids and alkalis, the materials are even tougher to discard.
In just the same way that the chemicals themselves need to be stored in a safe and controlled manner, the storage containers must also be handled with care before they enter the waste stream.
Firstly, the co-disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes to landfill was banned in July 2005. In autumn 2007, the Government also outlawed the crude shredding of IBCs and waste chemical barrels which were then mixed in a pit with lime or other neutralising agents before landfilling. Then, in June 2015, the WM3 Technical Guidance Note harmonised the hazard classes, categories and statement codes. However, it remained that any empty packaging which previously held a hazardous product and contained any residue of that product, would automatically be treated as a hazardous waste. It must therefore be disposed of as such.
This can pose an issue when it comes to the responsible handling of this ‘waste’. An agrochemical barrel can’t get onto the open market for instance, in case it is ever re-used as a water butt. This therefore explains why licensed incinerators are often sought out to take care of the materials. Even waste water can be sent for specialist treatment to prevent leachate leakage into the main utilities network.
But that doesn’t mean this is all that this waste packaging is destined for.
If the drum, for example, is shredded, and the fraction is transported via conveyor into a mixing plant, it can be blended with a neutralising agent to remove any toxicity. This handling process then results in a safe, tested and chemically-neutral substance that can be reused as a fossil fuel substitute perhaps. Not only does this satisfy all environmental and legal obligations, but it could even achieve cost savings and revenue generation.
The challenge of course is to find robust shredding technology that can withstand the typically aggressive nature of this material.
Key advice in this respect would be to seek a durable machine with hard-wearing, long-lasting cutters – otherwise maintenance regimes and the replacement of parts could become a frequent and costly exercise. Specially-configured mechanical seals and drop-out zones will further protect the component parts of the shredder, by keeping corrosive materials away from the bearings and gear boxes. Such a piece of equipment is a capital asset after all, so confidence in the machine’s longevity is needed.
The handling of hazardous wastes can and should be carried out only by experts within this complex field. But with specialist knowledge comes a wealth of opportunity to unlock greater potential from an otherwise difficult material type.Click here for related articlesFind manufacturers of shredders in our Equipment Guide
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